Tuesday, 9 October 2012
The 38th Steel City Beer and Cider Festival 2012
well, I finally got to the Sheffield beer festival this year after having decided not to read the info on the website properly, thus not realising that Wednesday night was a real live session which was open to the public and everything. Silly I.
I went Friday after work with friends and by myself on Saturday afternoon, and I have to say, had a very enjoyable time. Here's some of what I found...
It was £5.00 to get in plus £2.00 for the returnable glass, then you bought tokens on top. This year was just £1.00 and 10p tokens to make up the amounts which is possibly the simplest way to do it unless all beer is the same price. I got the ticket idea a long time ago, so it doesn't bother me that I can't spend real money behind the bar. In some ways its easier to keep track of the tokens, but its by no means flawless - as you will see further on.
There were reported to be 150 beers this year with not too many having run out by 18.00 Friday, although inevitably most of the very best offerings had gone, such as On The Edge Berliner. Luckily I was in time to get a stupendously good Mallinsons Topaz Centennial Ale, which was so marvellous I went mad and bought a whole pint of it. And but for a few late additions, all the beers were arranged in alphabetical order by brewery.
The venue once again excelled itself in making the location of the actual festival a secret. Even considering that my eyesight is woeful I am certain I only saw one poster or sign, in an indistinct colour scheme, but luckily I did have an inkling where it was. On the plus side, however, the venue was, crucially, cool this year. None of the vile sauna that marred last years event. And though there was cooling on the beers, very few beers seemed to have needed a lot, which was a positive.
Also, somehow the whole layout made more sense with the beers all in the middle, the cider on the right and food, CAMRA and merchandise stalls (including excellent, if expensive Biltong) around the edge. The music also sounded OK, perhaps due to it being at the end of the room instead of at one side. There was even probably enough seating, although there were quite a lot in our throng so most of the night was spent stood up.
Stand out beers of the festival were the Acorn Calypso, Mallinsons Gold Britannia and Topaz Centennial and the Thornbridge Evenlode Porter. Stocks were getting a bit low by the later stages of Saturday but in amongst slightly less tempting Ossett offerings there were still some outstanding and distinctive ales available including Abbeydale Black Mass, Thornbridge Evenlode and Ilkley Chief (all rather stronger ones!) when I left before nine.
Friday night saw me joined by Malc, Greg Robbery, Fluff, John, Wee Keefy, Half Pint, Jambon, and Paddington. Although I made my own weary way down on Saturday, if nothing else to spend the £4.00 of vouchers I found in my shirt pocket after leaving Friday (I then found £3.00 worth in my wallet today, which is really frustrating!) I still had great company from the likes of Sarah and Dave, Tom from On The Edge brewery and Chris Judith and Dan who were possibly from Stamford way and staying in Manchester.
So overall a far far better event than 2011, probably unlikely to lose as much money as I understand that festival did, although it wasn't rammed Saturday night, and with a far better set up and some great beers to try.
My only gripe is that two visits costs you a tenner, more if you don't hand the glass back. Admittedly I could have gone all day Saturday but then would have missed some really great beers. I think that Sheffield beer festival is expensive in comparison to say, Ripley, although bigger, and making it a more attractive price could put it up there with the best.
Am now looking forward now to the Cathedral beer fest and the Dronfield Hill Top Club beer festival over the next couple of weeks.